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“Ask a Priest: What If My Boyfriend Really Isn’t Ready for Baptism?”
Q: My boyfriend has been attending RCIA and is going to be baptized in a month, but he doesn’t believe in anything. He said he is going because he knows it will make me happy and because he wants to marry me and I am Catholic, not because he believes in any of it. I want him to be baptized, but as his sponsor if I say he has come to God during his Rite of Acceptance, I would be lying. Would it be a sin to let him go forward with a baptism he doesn’t believe in? Babies don’t believe in anything and they are baptized, so would the baptism still work if he doesn’t believe in it? He is not an atheist. He says he thinks God could exist but has no proof. If he is doing it voluntarily but only because I want him to, not because he believes, is it wrong to continue with the baptism? I’m too embarrassed to talk to my priest about it. I could use some guidance. – T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: From what you say, your boyfriend should not be baptized, and it would a grave deception on your part, as his sponsor, to testify that he’s “come to God.”
Adults need to have a basic faith in order to receive baptism validly. The baptism likely wouldn’t be valid if your boyfriend doesn’t really believe and is only going through the motions. (The situation is much different with babies, since they aren’t putting up any barriers to the grace of the sacrament.)
It would be good to reveal the situation to the priest who is overseeing the RCIA … immediately.
You might want to take some of this to prayer. The decision you choose might have a big impact on your own soul, and if you falsely testify on your boyfriend’s behalf, you might feed his impression that the Catholic faith is little more than window dressing.
In a broader context, you might also want to step back and ask yourself what kind of foundation this would be for your relationship, and what your boyfriend’s behavior shows about his character.
A certain level of interest in the spiritual life and awareness of God’s existence and his plan for life is one of the greatest supports for a solid and deep relationship. And if your boyfriend is blasé about the faith, he might not think it very important for his children, either.
Count on my prayers.
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TOUGH one. Yes, it would be deceptive to be sponsor to boyfriend’s baptism (I don’t think ‘sponsor’ fits with baptism, but rather Confirmation… the other part of those entering the church after RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) classes.
FAITH is a gift, even the mustardseed variety. I believe those completely RCIA instruction in the faith in practice and faith receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass. Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation in the book facts learned (anointed with blessed oil to receive gifts of the Holy Spirit)
Father M is correct, this is a situation needing to be talked of with the parish priest. If boyfriend says he ‘thinks God may exist’ that might be enough for the grace of being brought into the beginnings of the Divine Life of Christ. (who knows, maybe boyfriend is saying He thinks God may exist is enough for the Baptismal Grace to be efficacious and make faith just a bit stronger) After Baptism, perhaps it is best to WAIT and attend to Mass together EVEN IF boyfriend cannot take and eat (one should NEVER eat of the Blessed Bread in vain) I THINK RCIA candidates need FIRST CONFESSION as well… and this is to be discussed with the parish priest, who can explain that DOUBT (lack of trust) COULD BE sin that needs confessing.
No one can do ANYTHING without God (boyfriend who says he’s just doing it for girlfriend, is not quite in understanding… NOT EVEN GIRLFRIEND can make a person do something) It is a complicated situation and requires one to one talk with the parish priest.
When he says he doesn’t believe in any of it, it could be that what he doesn’t believe in is ‘the power of religion’ or ‘acts of faith.’ / Oh sure…there’s a God … sure. It’s a part of ‘natural law’ in all humans to know something of GOD. (objective good)
RELIGIOUS practices is where I think the doubt comes. If religion is unknown because of never living in a religious household as a child…the understanding of FAITH LIVED OUT will be difficult. Church, Sacraments, REAL PRESENCE in bread? He can be taught but if there’s no foundation for this in his life…he will find it hard to believe. A child can be taught U.S. History, if LOVE OF COUNTRY isn’t part of one’s mind, understanding why US History matters is LOST.
COMMUNICATION with a priest … IMMEDIATELY.